On November 18, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared settlements in the West Bank to be legal. This announcement disregards more than fifty years of international consensus that the building of Israeli settlements/colonies on occupied Palestinian land is illegal under international law. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that any occupying power shall not “deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” In 2016, Resolution 2334 of the United Nations Security Council reaffirmed that “…the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”
Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace (PCAP) strongly condemns the US State Department’s announcement and what it represents. For us Palestinians, Trump’s presidency has been a continuous nightmare. First was the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, followed by the nightmare of cutting all funding for UNRWA, the UN agency that has been entrusted with the most basic needs of the now 5 million+ Palestinian refugees. And now this latest nightmare, the attempt to legalize Jewish settlements in the West Bank. For Palestinians, this means more house demolitions, theft of Palestinian lands, and total bulldozing of any hope for peace with justices. In other words, Palestinians will continue to become corralled into smaller and smaller ghettoized parts of their own country, all with the approval of the United States.
This decision is not only bad for America, it is devastating for Palestinians, and in the long run, it is also bad for Israelis. And crucially, it adds a threat to the survival of Christianity in the Holy Land. This is because settlements and the oppressive matrix of total control to “protect” the settlers are the root cause of the emigration of Palestinian Christians. As the Israeli settlement movement becomes more emboldened, the already dwindling Palestinian Christian community in the Holy Land could become virtually extinct.
Just who does this new position on the settlements benefit? What prompts Trump Administration to reverse the long-held official position of the US government and international consensus? Clearly, at a time when Trump’s approval rating is quite low, the new decision on settlements is an attempt to energize his base of Christian Zionists—adherents of a discredited, un-Christian ideology. It also panders to pro-Israeli billionaires who support Israel’s extremist ideological settlers.
Paula White, a Christian Zionist pastor soon to head the White House’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative, said in a tweet that “as Evangelicals and supporters of Israel we applaud this bold and correct move.” White called it “an answered prayer,” further entrenching American Christians in the ongoing catastrophe, Nakba, that is Palestinian life.
As Palestinians, the oldest Christian worshiping community, we call on all churches, human rights organizations and all who care for peace and justice to stay on course with resolutions for justice for the Palestinians and to resist the Trump Administration’s attempt to legalize the Israeli settler colonization of the West Bank.
Written by Rev. Doctor Alex Awad on behalf of the PCAP Board
Watch Rev. Awad’s presentation on our video, “Yes, There Are Christians in Palestine“: